How to Use the Arm Ergometer

Upper body (arm) ergometers aren't a gym staple, but they're becoming more readily available in physical therapy offices, hospitals, universities and modern gyms. Targeted to meet the fitness needs of individuals who cannot use their legs for physical activity, these machines offer a great cardio workout that uses the upper body instead. Most offer direct wheelchair access, while some ergometers are simple, lightweight designs that rest on a table top alone.

Who can use an arm ergometer?
  • Individuals with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or lower body disability
  • Individuals who need a low-impact exercise program
  • Individuals who are recovering from foot or leg injury/surgery and have clearance to continue working out
  • Anyone who wants to vary their cardio workout program
How does it work?
Arm ergometers work like a bicycle for your arms. You sit on a comfortable seat with a supportive back and grasp handles in front of you, "pedaling" with your arms in a circular motion. Some models offer dual passive movement for the legs, which is controlled by your arms. Using the upper body for cardio is an effective method for elevating your heart rate to an aerobic level.

The Set-Up
If you find an ergometer at a location near you, an expert there can help you adjust the machine to fit your body and show you how it works. Arm ergometers vary widely in design and features. Some are small machines that sit on a table top, others involve standing or sitting in a wheelchair, and some are large machines that can be operated while sitting or standing., for example, sells small arm ergometers that are suitable for personal use at home, and large, commercial-grade ergometers that are similar to those found in gyms.
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Member Comments

Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Thank you. Report
Thanks Report
I wish I knew how to track this on my fitness. Report
I use mine for both my arms and my legs. I was using one at the hospital for Pulmonary Rehab and I really liked it. It has helped quite a bit. Report
I used this at the hospital physio dept. so I purchased one when I came back home. I use it all the time. Report
Good article. Report
It is a shame to have an article with so much useful potential have dead links. Spark staff, FIRE THAT BOT!! Report
Great, Thanks! Report
Nice to see articles promoting inclusion. Report
They look good, link for small didn't work, found it on large link. I use a pail of sand with a rope fished thru a pulley hooked to a beam in my garage. Works hand over hand to a 12 foot lift. Report
I am going to look into this system Report
Never heard of this one before. Thanks! Report
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Used it for PT and it was great and thinking of getting one for home. Report

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.